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SSDs fail to unseat HDDs

Posted: 24 Aug 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:NAND flash? solid state drives? SSD? storage?

There was a time when solid-state storage drives (SSDs) were expected to drive the NAND flash market, but they haven't lived up that expectation.

Aside from driving the NAND market, some industry memebrs at one time also went as far as to say that SSDs would replace traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) in PCs. Based on standard NAND flash, SSDs are low-power, storage devices that could threaten power-hungry HDDs.

While SSDs have seen steady growth over the years, they have to some degree been a disappointment, with the industry still mired in the early adoption phase. SSDs are still somewhat expensive for cost-sensitive consumers and there is a perception that these products have some inherent reliability issues in the enterprise.

Because of the recent downturn, NAND vendors were reluctant to drive down their chip prices as fast as before, putting SSDs even further behind the cost delta curve behind traditional HDDs. Now, prices for NAND chips have suddenly fallen, but it could be too little and too late for SSD vendors.

This is not to say the SSD market is a total bust. However, the SSD crowd has given up the notion that SSDs will totally replace hard drives. Some wonder if SSDs will even find any mass appeal at all.

SSDs ''won't replace hard drives,'' said Walter Fry, distinguished member of the technical staff at Hewlett-Packard Co., ''Hard disk drives will continue to lead in cost per capacity.''

Others say SSDs will have a more important role outside of the PC. Andy Walls, technical lead for IBM Systems and Technology division's deployment of SSDs, argued that SSDs will play an important role in datacenters.

Jim Handy, an analyst with Objective Analysis, said SSDs are growing at about the rate he expected, but that this rate is slower than many had hoped. "People had false expectations [for SSDs]," Handy said. "The PC market for SSDs has been slow to develop. The strongest growth has occurred in areas where HDDs simply will not operate and in systems for which users are willing to pay a significant premium for an SSDs' faster speed or greater durability."

Still, the market is growing in select segments. Some 4 million SSDs will ship in 2010, according to Objective Analysis. The firm predicts that nearly 40 million SSDs will ship in 2015, accounting for more than $7 billion in revenues.

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